Most people are familiar with bunions—those big, knobby, bony, protruding bumps that can develop on the inside of some feet at the base of the big toe. Did you know, however, that the same thing can happen to the little toe, on the opposite side of the foot? A bunion on the fifth toe is called a bunionette, and don’t let their relatively small size fool you. They can be just as painful and frustrating to deal with as their larger cousins!
Bunionettes may also be called tailor’s bunions for historical reasons—centuries ago, they were a common condition among professional tailors, who would sit cross-legged with the outside of their feet against the ground. Today, you’re more likely to develop one over time from a fundamental defect in the way your feet are structured, or perhaps from wearing tight shoes that pinch your pinky toe.
As with bunions, bunionettes are a progressive condition. That ugly bump isn’t going away anytime soon, so you have two basic options. The first, and the one we prefer to thoroughly explore initially, is conservative management. No, these techniques won’t make the bump go away, but if the bunionette is still relatively minor, they usually will take the pain away and allow you to function normally without discomfort or restriction. Making sure you have wide enough shoes to accommodate your toes, using a little padding to defend against friction, and getting a good pair of orthotics to correct or accommodate any structural flaws in your feet that could be contributing to your pain is, more often than not, more than sufficient.
Unfortunately, a severe bunionette might not be controllable through conservative treatment alone, and that’s when we look at the second option: surgery. Depending on the condition of the bones and the joint, this could be as simple as removing some of the excess skin and swollen tissues. In other cases, bones will have to be cut and repositioned in a procedure known as an osteotomy. Although we see surgery as a last resort, the good news is that bunionette surgery is, on average, highly successful and produces long-lasting pain relief for the great majority of our patients.
If a little bunionette is causing you big problems, don’t ignore the pain. Call the Foot & Ankle Clinic of the Virginias at (800) 456-8637 and schedule an appointment at one of our seven convenient locations.